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Home Builders to Pay $4.3M in National Settlement Over Construction Site Storm Water Permit Issues in 34 States

Release Date: 06/11/2008
Contact Information: Kris Lancaster, 913-551-7557, lancaster.kris.@epa.gov


Environmental News

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Kansas City, Kan., June 11, 2008) - Four of the nation's top 10 home builders have agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to resolve alleged violations of the Clean Water Act for delays or failures to obtain proper storm water permits for numerous construction sites in 34 states and the District of Columbia, including 20 sites in Missouri and two in Kansas.

Under terms of four related settlements filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the four companies have also agreed to implement company-wide compliance programs that go beyond current regulatory requirements and put controls in place that will keep an estimated 1.2 billion pounds of sediment from polluting the nation's waterways each year.

The home builders are Centex Homes, based in Dallas; KB Home, based in Los Angeles; Pulte Homes, based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; and Richmond American Homes, based in Denver. According to terms announced today by officials of the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, Centex will pay penalties of $1,485,000; KB Home will pay $1,185,000; Pulte Homes will pay $877,000; and Richmond American Homes will pay $795,000.

Pulte Homes has also agreed to complete a supplemental environmental project to reduce the amount of sediment entering a northern California watershed, at a minimum cost of $608,000.

"EPA requires that construction sites obtain permits and take simple, basic steps to prevent pollutants from contaminating storm water and harming our nation's waterways," said Granta Y. Nakayama, assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. "Today's settlement sets a new bar for the home building industry."

In the four states of Region 7, the settlement addresses 20 construction sites in Missouri, including three operated by Pulte Homes and 17 operated by Centex Homes; and two sites in Kansas, both operated by Pulte Homes.

Missouri sites for Pulte Homes include Kensington Farms, Cass County; and Kings Gate and Kinsley Forest, both in Clay County.

Missouri sites for Centex Homes include Providence, Regency Woods and Mayfield Farms Phases 1 & 2, all in Jefferson County; Crooked Creek, Lincoln County; Brighton Park, Carlton Glen, Fox Ridge, Manors at Crimson Oaks, Preston Woods and Tysons Corner, all in St. Charles County; and Ashton Woods, Enclaves at Cherry Hills, Meadowbrook Villas, Mill Ridge Villas, River Breeze Estates, Tapawingo on the Green, and Weatherby Place/Weatherby Manors, all in St. Louis County.

Kansas sites for Pulte Homes include Reserve and Stratton Oaks, both in Johnson County.

Additionally, Missouri is one of only seven states to join in the federal settlements as co-plaintiffs. By doing so, Colorado, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia will receive a portion of the monetary penalties, based on the number of sites located within their states.

The federal government's complaints allege a common pattern of violations that was discovered by reviewing documentation submitted by the companies, and through federal and state inspections of construction sites. The alleged violations include not obtaining permits until after construction had begun, or failing to obtain required permits at all. At sites without permits, violations included failures to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris, in storm water runoff.

The settlements require the companies to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections, and promptly correct any problems that are detected. The companies must properly train construction managers and contractors, and are required to have trained staff at each construction site. They also must implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to EPA.

Improving compliance at construction sites is one of EPA's national enforcement priorities. Construction projects have a high potential for environmental harm because they disturb large areas of land and significantly increase the potential for erosion. Without onsite pollution controls, sediment-laden runoff from construction sites can flow directly to the nearest waterway and degrade water quality. In addition, storm water can pick up other pollutants, including concrete washout, paint, used oil, pesticides, solvents and other debris. Polluted runoff can harm or kill fish and wildlife and can affect drinking water quality.

The settlements are the latest in a series of enforcement actions to address storm water violations from construction sites around the country. A similar consent decree, reached in February with Home Depot, required the company to pay a fine of $1.3 million and establish a comprehensive storm-water compliance plan to prevent future violations.

The Clean Water Act requires that construction sites have controls in place to prevent pollution from being discharged with storm water into nearby waterways. These controls include simple pollution prevention techniques such as silt fences, phased site grading, and sediment basins to prevent common construction contaminants from entering the nation's waterways.

Today's consent decree, lodged in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, is subject to a 30-day public comment period and approval by the federal court. The companies are required to pay the penalty within 30 days of the court's approval of the settlements.

A copy of the consent decree is available on the Justice Department Web site.

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EPA works with home builders to develop responsible storm water plans. Learn more